Thursday, December 14, 2017

Now is the Time: Agriculture and Our World

We only have one world. An astronaut shares his experiences from space and how his unique perspective has made him look at our world and agriculture differently. We encourage you to watch the short video linked below from the FAO and utilize the discussion points to guide conversations in your classrooms, coffee shops, and communities around the world!

We Only Have One Earth 

Discussion Points

  • Of the points shared throughout this video which surprised you the most and why?
  • What are your general thoughts after watching this video? Do you agree with all points? Some points? None at all? Justify and explain your responses. Provide support for your views.
  • The video mentions that forests, soils, and oceans can be huge "carbon sinks." What does this mean? If you need to do additional research go for it!
  • At one point in the video their is a call for action. "Now is the time to take action." What can you do to make a positive impact today where you are at in your life?

Friday, December 8, 2017

European Scientists Call for Change

A recent report put out by scientists in Europe is calling for analysis and change in our agriculture systems. I have linked an article below that shares some of their findings and calls for action. We encourage you to read over the linked article and utilize the discussion points below to guide your conversations in your clasrrooms and communities around the globe!

Call for Urgent Action on Food Security

Discussion Points

  • Why do these scientists see a need for change in our agriculture systems? How do they justify these needed changes?
  • Under the heading "Food consumption will need to change to improve consumer health:" there are several points shared for change. Of these which do you feel has the greatest potential for change and impact? Explain your response.
  • Under this same heading which do you feel has the least potential for change and why?
  • There are many scientific advancements and technologies that can attribute to a change in our agriculture systems mentioned in this article. Which practice/technology stuck out to you as the most promising?Justify your response.
  • Overall what was your take-a-ways from this article? Do you agree? Disagree? Why?

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Agrobiodiversity Globally

Agrobiodiversity is a topic that seems to come up more and more lately and often is due to a concern for a lack of agrobiodiversity. This week we look at a column from a professor at Penn State University who shares his thoughts and findings on the topic. We encourage you to read the linked article and utilize the discussion points provided to guide conversations in your classrooms, coffee shops, and communities around the globe.

Fewer Crops are Feeding More People Worldwide - And That's Not Good

Discussion Points

  • What are the benefits of agrobiodiversity?
  • The article shares why wealthy nations see less agrobiodiversity when compared to poorer countries. Why is this?
  • Do you feel there can be a balance between "traditional crops" and "new crops" as discussed in the column? Explain your reasoning.
  • In your opinion what is the future of agrobiodiversity around the world? Justify your thoughts. 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

No Antibiotics for Livestock?

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently came out with a recommended blanket ban on antibiotics for livestock. Below we have linked an article and video from Market to Market explaining the WHO's stance and USDA's stance on the recommended policy. We encourage you to investigate the linked video/article and utilize the discussion points provided to guide conversations in coffee shops, classrooms, and communities around the world!

International Groups Says Certain Antibiotics Should Not Be Used on Sick Livestock

Discussion Points

  • Why has the WHO made this antibiotic ban recommendation and how do they justify this ban?
  • How has the USDA responded and what arguments have they made for their stance?
  • What is the current policy on antibiotic use with livestock in your home country?
  • Where do you stand on this recommendation? Keep it? Amend it? Scrap it? Justify your response.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Agriculture and Health Come Together

The Director-General of the FAO came together with health ministers at a G7 gathering to stress the need to transform food systems to improve health and nutrition. Some intriguing points are shared in the linked article. We encourage you to read the article and utilize the discussion points provided to guide conversations in classrooms, coffee shops, and communities around the globe!

FAO to G7: Urgent Action Needed to Curb Malnutrition Globally

Discussion Points

  • Hunger is one of three concerns globally with malnutrition. What other areas are of concern to malnutrition and why?
  • What piece of information from the article surprised you the most and why? 
  • The following was quoted in the article: "Transforming food systems to promote healthy diets means taking action in each step of the food chain, from farm to fork." What ideas do you have to transform the food system and why would they work?
  • Why is the "One Health" approach so important to ensuring food safety?

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Flour Power

A recent study in Australia has found a way to produce more flour and healthier flour while not increasing overall wheat production. The linked article below shares their findings and includes a video explanation as well. We encourage you to investigate both and utilize the discussion points below to guide conversations in your classrooms and communities around the world!

Flour Power to Boost Food Security

Discussion Points

  • Why does wheat production play such a huge roll in markets and food security around the world? 
  • Why is this new finding so significant to world food security?
  • Explain how this new process increases production and nutritional value of flour.
  • This is a remarkable finding for flour production in wheat. Think about other crops and how we might be able to find genes to increase production, increase nutrition, decrease waste, protect the environment, etc. Share your thoughts and discuss the possibilities!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

South America's Crop Production

South America's impact on agriculture is evident. The linked article below provides an insight to crop production in South America and it's potential impact around the globe. We encourage you to read the linked article and utilize the discussion points below to guide your conversations in your local communities and classrooms.

South America Will Continue To Pressure Grain Prices

Discussion Points

  • What is the current outlook for crop production in South America?
  • How do you see this outlook impacting prices and production in your home country?
  • Besides the amount of crop being planted what other factors could affect global prices of corn and soybeans?
  • In your opinion what does the future for crop production hold for South America? Explain.
  • Explain how politics and policies can impact crop production and prices globaly?

Thursday, October 19, 2017

CRISPR-Cas Potential

This week we have participated in World Food Prize events in Des Moines and on our campus. One hot topic that keeps emerging, with potential to help feed our growing population, is CRISPR-Cas technology. Linked below is a video that was shared at the Borlaug Dialogue in Des Moines this week. We encourage you to watch the linked video and utilize the discussion points below to guide conversations around the globe!

CRISPR-Cas for Healthy Seed Development

Discussion Points

  • Explain what CRISPR-Cas technology is and how it works?
  • How can CRISPR-Cas technology be beneficial in agriculture and help feed our growing population?
  • It has been stressed throughout the week that we need to educate the public on what CRISPR-Cas is. Why is this so important?
  • In your opinion what is the best way to educate the public on this technology?

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Tackling Bovine TB Together

Recently four major players got together to develop a plan to tackle bovine TB and zoonotic TB. We encourage you to read the linked article to learn more about the disease and what the plan is to tackle it. Utilize the discussion points to guide your conversations around the globe!

Partners Launch Roadmap to Stop Bovine and Zoonotic TB

Discussion Points

  • Explain the difference between bovine TB and zoonotic TB.
  • Why is it difficult to detect zoonotic TB?
  • The article breaks down the roadmap to tackle bovine and zoonotic TB into three categories. Which of the three areas do you feel is most important to tackling TB and why?
  • How does the impact of zoonotic TB go beyond just effecting one's health. Explain.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Forests and Food Security

Forests play a vital role in food security and nutrition around the globe. Linked below is a video that explores the impact of forests on food security and nutrition along with the interaction between traditional production agriculture and forestry. We encourage you to watch the linked video and utilize the discussion points below to guide conversations in your classrooms and communities! When we travel abroad with students and farmers this is often a topic of discussion.

Sustainable Forestry for Food Security and Nutrition

Discussion Points

  • Why are forests so important to food security and nutrition?
  • Of the many benefits that forests provide for food security and nutrition which do you feel is the most important and why?
  • Many facts were shared in the video. Which fact surprised you the most (or did you find most interesting) and why?
  • Towards the end of the video integrating production agriculture and forestry was stressed. Do some additional research and find how this is being done around the globe. Share your findings with others. 

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Hurricane Maria and Agriculture

Puerto Rico has been devastated by Hurricane Maria. Part of the devastation includes the agriculture sector. Look over the linked article to learn more about the impact that Hurricane Maria is having on the agriculture sector in Puerto Rico. Utilize the discussion points provided to spark conversations in your classrooms, coffee shops, and communities around the world!

Discussion Points
  • Explain the impact of Hurricane Maria on agriculture in Puerto Rico. Consider both crops and livestock.
  • Looking back through the years what has been the trends with agriculture in Puerto Rico?
  • Some are turning this horrible situation into a positive for agriculture. Explain their reasoning.
  • In your opinion what could be done to help get agriculture back on it's feet in Puerto Rico? Why would your idea be successful?

Thursday, September 21, 2017

World Hunger on the Rise

World hunger and malnutrition is a battle that continues to be fought. A recent report found that hunger is on the rise after several years of decline. We encourage you to look over the linked article and utilize the discussion points to guide conversations with others around the globe!

World Hunger Again on the Rise

Discussion Points

  • Explain the trend of global hunger over the past years.
  • Two main factors have been attributed to the resurgence of hunger and malnutrition. Identify and explain these two factors.
  • Look over the "Key Numbers" section. Which facts stick out to you and why?
  • In your opinion how do we work towards eradicating hunger and malnutrition?

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Intercropping in China

Farming on the steep hills of China can be a challenge and soil erosion is a huge concern. This week we take a closer look at some research to protect the soil while increasing profits at the same time in China. We encourage you to look at the linked article and utilize the discussion points below to guide the conversations in your classrooms and communities around the globe.

Helping Chinese Farmers Tackle Erosion

Discussion Points

  • Imagine someone approaches you on the street and has no idea what intercropping is. Explain it to them in a couple sentences.
  • What benefits where found utilizing intercropping in China? 
  • Of all the benefits listed which do you feel was the most important and why?
  • Soil erosion continues to be an issue in China and around the world. What are additional ways that erosion can be reduced in China and globally? Explain how/why your recommendations would be successful.
**Ag Educators: Take the last point a step farther and have students create a plan to reduce erosion in China and present to the class.

Friday, September 8, 2017

World Cereal Production and the Food Price Index

World cereal production is on pace for an all time high. This is one factor that impacts the Food Price Index put out by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. Below we have linked two items. The first is an article regarding a summary of the recent Food Price Index and production trends around the globe. The second link is the latest Food Price Index report from the FAO. We encourage you to look over both links and utilize the discussion points below to guide your conversations in your classrooms, coffee shops, and communities around the world!

Global Cereal Output Heads for New Record

Food Price Index

Discussion Points

  • What is the FAO Food Price Index?
  • What is the trend with cereal production around the world? Are their trends within certain regions of the world that are different than others?
  • Looking at the Food Price Index what trends have you noticed over the past years? What may be causing these fluctuations? 
  • Some Food Price Indexes have decreased while other areas have increased or held stable? What are the reasonings for this?
  • What specific area increase or decrease in the Food Price Index surprises you the most and why?

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Drought and Agriculture

There are many weather events that can impact agriculture. The linked video below takes a closer look at droughts and their impacts on agriculture. We encourage you to watch the linked video and utilize the discussion points below to guide conversations in your classrooms and communities.

Drought in Agriculture

Discussion Points

  • Which fact shared in the video did you find most interesting and why?
  • Why is a proactive response to droughts in agriculture so important?
  • Explain the solutions shared in the video to combat drought?
  • What is the key to success in combating droughts in agriculture in your opinion? Explain your reasoning.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

South African Beef Potential

A new school year is upon us and with that comes our weekly blog posts with discussion points! We kick this school year off with a closer look at beef production and agriculture in South Africa. This article has many great resources besides the text including an interactive "Global Food Security Index" map and several videos. We encourage you to check out all and utilize the discussion points below to guide conversations in your classrooms, coffee shops, and communities.

Beefing Up Africa's Food Security

Discussion Points

  • How does South Africa rate in regards to food security when compared to other African countries and countries around the world?
  • Explore the "Global Food Security Index" map. What did you notice or what surprised you and explain?
  • What is the story of Beef in South Africa? Where are they? What is the potential?
  • Watch the video "A Visit with Brylyne Chitsunge." What are Brylyne's thoughts on keys to food security success in South Africa?
  • After watching the video on South African feedlots what did you find most interesting and why?
  • Of the three takeaways at the end of the article which did you find most interesting and why?

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Perfect Saturday in Kosovo

We had a wonderful Saturday for our last full day in Kosovo! The delegation started the day off with exploring the city of Pristina. We ventured down and checked out the soccer stadium that is under renovation for the National Team of Kosovo. After we explored for a bit we loaded the military bus to travel to the municipality of Istog. We had a nice discussion with the Mayor and it was evident, as it was most of the week that, agriculture played a big role in their community. This is the same community that we visited the day before when we toured Agroproduct. The Major of Istog invited a local farmer to join the discussion as well.

After our meeting we returned to Trofta to tour their trout farm. There is a natural spring that fills roughly 600 gallons per second. After the tour we were able to enjoy some of the delicious trout from their menu. Following lunch we had the amazing opportunity to travel to Consul General Xhavit Gashi's home. This is where he was born right at home, to making many memories with his seven siblings, and taught many life lessons from his father. General Gashi's mother and family still live there today.

The Gashi family are a great group of people who were warm and welcoming. It was great to join them in the yard and learn more about their family and the struggles of the past because of the war. As General Gashi told stories from the war our hearts ached as we imagined what life was like in Kosovo 20 years ago. It was hard to hear what had happened to the people of this small country, but the stories helped us better understand the sufferings. At this point in time the people from Iowa and Kosovo became more thean a delegation, we became a family. We were touched dearly by this. Thanks to General Gashi for opening up to us about hard times.

Wrapping up our time in Kosovo we joined the Ministry of Agriculture team to visit cultural sites and enjoy dinner together. We saw many amazing artifacts, learned more about the history of Kosovo, and different areas of the cultures. As we prepared to wrap up the evening we received a call from the Minister of Foreign Affairs. He had just returned to town and wanted to meet us. We joined him for a brief meeting before returning to our hotel to pack our bags and get things in order for our departure Sunday morning.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Kosovo Agriculture on the Rise

Today we traveled to different regions than we have been to previously. We started the day by traveling to the Peja region where we visited Agroproduct and apple orchards. Agroproduct dries various herbs, berries, leaves, flowers, etc. They have a unique drying facility allowing them to produce over 160 different quality products. They export 90% of their products, with Germany being a main buyer. Seventy percent of their products are gathered from the wild, leaving thirty percent cultivated.

Next we traveled to an apple orchard where we met 12 farmers and the head of their association. This group of farmers have 130 hectares of land in apple production. Unfortunately, this year they have lost their entire crop due to a late frost. Most of the apples stay in Kosovo with approximately 65% sold fresh at markets and 35% processed into further products.

We enjoyed lunch at a beautiful restaurant, which specializes in fish. As usual, we did not go hungry. Following lunch we traveled to the municipality of Rahovec. We had a nice visit with the mayor, who is a former Minster of Agriculture for Kosovo. He explained agriculture in the region and the opportunities in front of them. This area is known for it's vineyards and wineries. After a great conversation we visited the Bodrumi i Vjeter Winery. They gave us a short history of their winery and then gave us a tour. They shared that the skin of grapes give wine their color and the seeds provide the flavor. With red wines they leave the seeds in during fermentation, but with white wines the seeds are removed for fermentation.

From the winery we made our way to a beautiful vineyard. We were able to discuss production practices and inspect the soil closer. We concluded the evening with a social at Soma. As some prepare to head home or other directions this gave us a chance to reflect on our time in Kosovo. We have one more day in Kosovo with some site seeing and a farewell event with the Ministry of Agriculture. It was evident today and throughout the week that agriculture in Kosovo is on the rise. There are great things to come and we are excited to be a part of it!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Presidential Praise: Kosovo and Iowa

It was another full day in Kosovo! We started the day off by visiting with the President of Kosovo, Hashim Thaci. There was great discussion around the success of the Iowa-Kosovo partnership and plans for the future. Once our meeting was completed with the president we traveled to an archaeological site. We were able to see roads, churches, tombs, etc. that were built by the Romans. We were also able to get a good look at the soil profile, wheat, and corn in the surrounding area.

We enjoyed another spectacular lunch outdoors at a country themed restaurant visiting with folks from USAID about agriculture projects in the northwest region of Kosovo. Following lunch we traveled to see the projects they were explaining to us. We visited a young farmer producing raspberries. He had grown his operation substantially over the last couple years and plans further expansion. Raspberries are much more profitable than the traditional corn and wheat crops grown in the region. After planting raspberries they will produce for 15 years. It just takes one year to receive your return on investment with raspberries in Kosovo. After our time in the field we traveled to a processing plant that is being built for the raspberries.

Next up was a visit with the University of Pristina College of Agriculture and Vetrenary Medicine. We had a great discussion on agriculture education for their 2,000 students. Public universities in Kosovo are funded 100% by the government.

To wrap up our day of touring and visits we traveled to PESTOVA which processes potatoes into a variety of products. We found their products delicious! They are working to increase production in order to continue increasing their exports.

We rounded out a spectacular day at a backyard BBQ that was fabulous. It included a wide range of food, live music, fireworks, and a birthday celebration for our great friend Consul General Xhavit Gashi!  

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

"This Castle is 3,500 Years Old!"

This morning was filled with diplomatic visits. We started the morning off by joining Minster of Agriculture, Memli Krasniqi, to discuss agriculture in more depth (see photo below). He was able to explain where they currently stand and where he would like things to go. From their Memli took us for visits with the Speaker of the Parliament, Kari Veseli, and then Prime Minister Isa Mustafa.

Following our meetings it was time for lunch at the beautiful Soma restaurant. This allowed us time to visit and explore partnerships within agriculture between Kosovo and Iowa. After Lunch we traveled to the town of Prizren and visited ABI. ABI processes fruits, vegetables, and dairy products. We enjoyed learning more about their operation and then touring their facilities. They process 72 different fruit and vegetable products and 32 different dairy products.

We then stayed in Prizren to visit the Albanian museum and explore the Prizren Castle. The Prizren Castle has some original features and is being restored, as well, in some areas that have deteriorated. They have been able to date some of the castle structure back to 1500 B.C.  This was a remarkable structure and gave a great view of the city below.

We traveled back to Pristina for a reception hosted by the American Chamber in Kosovo. This allowed time for networking with Kosovars. Following the reception we made our way to a beautiful restaurant for dinner and conversations. Looking forward to what tomorrow will bring in Kosovo!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Jobs and Justice for Kosovo

Today was our first full day in Kosovo and it certainly did not disappoint. We started the morning off with a briefing from the U.S. Embassy. They shared the current political transition with the recent elections and other interesting facts about Kosovo. They stressed the focus of "jobs and justice for Kosovo." There is a need to provide training for jobs, but then there must be a market for what those jobs produce and/or provide.

Following our briefing we made our way to the Government Building, which is just a short walk from our hotel. We heard briefings from the Minstry of Education, Agriculture, and Trade and Commerce. It was great to see and visit with Minster of Agriculture Memli Krasniqi again. He shared general information on agriculture in Kosovo. He shared that there are 130,000 farms in Kosovo with the average size of a farm being just over two hectares (roughly 10 acres). Kosovo currently has a agriculture trade deficit, but there is great potential to grow exports. There was, also, great discussion on challenges facing agriculture in Kosovo.

We had a little time for networking with the ministers and their chief advisors before returning to the hotel for a feast of a lunch. There is no concern of weight loss on this adventure. Food is always plentiful and delicious! For the afternoon we joined the Minstry of Education and numerous universities and colleges from around Kosovo. This allowed us time to share information about our schools and explore partnership opportunities.

For dinner we traveled to General Rama's family farm outside of Pristina. Before dinner we were able to tour their farm which produces eggs, beef, honey, vegetables, and fruits. We once again enjoyed a delicious dinner outside in the beautiful Kosovo countryside. We cannot wait to explore agriculture more tomorrow with Minister Krasniqi and Secretary Northey!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Kosovo Arrival and Stone Castle

It was a long, but successful day or days of travel. With the time change it became hard to tell how long we had spent on airplanes and in airports. Once we arrived in Kosovo we received a very warm welcome from Consul General Xhavit Gashi who ushered us to a bus to take us to a VIP reception. We were able to enjoy coffee, water, and conversation while our baggage was collected and passports were processed. This allowed us to bypass the hustle and bustle of the airport.

We then were able to see some of the city as we made our way to our hotel for check-in. Right after check-in we enjoyed appetizers in a ped-mall area as we reviewed our schedule for the week. Following this time we headed back to the hotel and prepared to head out for dinner.

For dinner we travelled to Stone Castle Winery and Vineyards, about one hour from Pristina. This allowed us to see much of the countryside. We noted most of the fields were small and the terrain became rougher as we traveled away from Pristina. For crops we saw a lot of corn, small grains, and hay. As far as livestock we came across some cattle, horses, and sheep.

Before dinner we had the opportunity to tour the production facilities of Stone Castle Winery and Vineyards. They have many award winning wines. They have 2,243 hectares at the winery and vineyard with 600 hectares in grape production currently. They must buy 3/4 of the grapes they use creating a great market for grapes in the area for other producers. They have separate facilities for white and red wine production making them unique from others.

Following our tour we enjoyed an enormous meal at Stone Castle. We were not sure if the food would ever stop coming. We shared great company with many honored guests in attendance. As we return to Pristina this evening we are enjoying the wisdom and conversations shared with Secretary Northey. We look forward to our first full day in Kosovo tomorrow!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Kosovo Bound!

And we are off! We are joining a delegation from Iowa traveling to Kosovo organized by Iowa Sister States. We have a diverse group, comprised of individuals from Agriculture, Business, and Education. The delegation will have many events together at the beginning and closing of our time in Kosovo, as well as receptions in the evenings. Other times the different groups will breakup and focus on their specific areas of expertise.

The Global Agriculture Learning Center at Hawkeye Community College is joining the Agriculture team in Kosovo. While in Kosovo we will learn more about their agriculture and meet with their Minster of Agriculture Memli Krasniqi and other political representatives along with visiting agriculture farms, businesses, and schools. The agriculture team is comprised of Bill Northey (Iowa Secretary of Agriculture), Kristi Mensen (Hawkeye Community College student), and Brad Kinsinger (Director of Global Agriculture Learning Center).

Today is a busy day of travel. Our flights will take us from Cedar Rapids to Chicago to Frankfurt, Germany to Prishtina, Kosovo. We encourage you to follow us on social media and on this blog to join our adventures in Kosovo!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Trade War to Trade Deal

Recently China and the United States struck a new trade deal that will look to open up the movement of beef, natural gas, and cooked chicken. I encourage you to read through the linked article that shares some of the details of the recent trade talks. At the bottom of the article there is a five minute video clip of analysts looking closer at the trade deal and bringing up some intriguing points. We encourage you to explore the article and video and use the discussion points below to guide your conversations.

China, US Reach Agreement

Discussion Points

  • What are the initial details of this trade agreement? 
  • To you what is the most significant part of this trade agreement and why?
  • Why have some cautioned against immediate excitement over the trade deal?
  • Give your predictions of this trade deal. What will be the impact of beef, pork, and/or natural gas prices in your home country for the consumer and producers? Explain and justify your reasonings.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Silos in Afghanistan

In developing countries there are often solutions that can be introduced that seem "simple" to the developed world. Things that we take for granted can be life changing to developing countries. An example of this is when we shared in season fertilizer practices with our partner university in Haiti. By using fertilizer sources available to them and the concept of in season fertilizers yields tripled in one year. Below is a video from the FAO that shares how a silo project in Afghanistan is positively impacting agriculture. Watch the short video (under two minutes) linked below and utilize the discussion points to guide your conversations around the globe.

Silos for Afghanistan 

Discussion Points

  • Explain the silo project implemented in Afghanistan.
  • How has this project benefited farmers and citizens of Afghanistan?
  • Why is it key that this project utilized locals to create the silos?
  • This project was tabbed "a simple solution to food and seed loss." What are other "simple solutions" that you can think of that could improve agriculture in developing countries? What are the possible benefits and negatives of your potential solution? What are potential challenges facing your solution and how would you overcome them?

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Climate Smart Agriculture

At a recent event of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) farmers from different areas of the world shared successes utilizing climate smart agriculture practices. The linked article below explains climate smart agriculture and explains the successful practices utilized in Tanzania and Vietnam. Read the linked article below and utilize the discussion points to guide your conversations around the globe!

Countries Share Lessons on How to Tackle Climate Change

Discussion Points

  • In your own words explain "Climate Smart" agriculture. 
  • Explain the successful climate smart practices utilized in Tanzania and their impacts.
  • Explain the successful climate smart practices implemented in Vietnam and their impacts.
  • Of all of the climate smart practices in agriculture that were shared which do you feel is the greatest innovation and why?
  • What additional practices do you feel could be implemented to promote climate smart agriculture around the world?

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Wastewater Farming Contorversy

A new water treatment plant is coming to Mexico. Most would see this as a good thing, however some are not so happy. The water that will be treated is currently a fertilizer source for a group of farmers in Mexico. Read through the article linked below and utilize the discussion points below to guide conversations around the globe. 

Discussion Points
  • Explain the benefits of wastewater farming.
  • Explain the problems with wastewater farming.
  • What past historical event or events complicate this situation more?
  • After reading this article what would your recommendation by and why? Plant, no plant, compromise, or something else?
  • This situation is an excellent example of how something that can benefit so many can have a negative impact on others. Can you think of other examples of this? 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

From Sea to Plate

Did you know that keeping illegally captured fish off supermarket shelves is a problem around the world? This is a challenge that is facing the fishing/seafood industry and one of the heaviest traded commodities in the world. We encourage you to read the linked article and then utilize the discussion points provided below to guide conversations around the globe.

Discussion Points
  • Why is it so important to track and monitor the sale and trade of seafood products around the world?
  • Explain what is being proposed to help protect against illegal, unprotected and unreported fishing. 
  • Why is international buy-in so crucial to this initiative? 
  • Which countries have led the way by already adopting similar initiatives? How can buy-in be increased globally in your opinion?

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Pollen Spread: GM and non-GM Crops

Before we have highlighted pieces on GMO vs. non-GMO products and practices. This week we look at how the two can work together and what is needed for separation to protect against pollen spread. We encourage you to look at the linked study from a scientist in Canada and utilize the discussion points to guide conversations around the globe!

New Tool Helps Estimate GM Pollen Spread

Discussion Points

  • Why is it important to have an area of separation between GM products and non-GM products?
  • What did the study find as a suitable separation space? How does this compare to what some have suggested? (You may need to convert measurements to standard if your home country does not utilize metric.)
  • Do some additional research. In your home area what is the required separation distance when planting GM next to non-GM crops? How does this distance measure up to the suggested distance in this latest research?
  • Often things can get contentious between individuals and groups when you have growers producing GM and non-GM crops close in proximity. What suggestions would you have for both sides to ensure successful experiences for all?

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Syrian Agriculture Needs Help Now

We have all heard about the horrifying events taking place in Syria. Agriculture is, also, hurting in Syria. The linked article takes a look at a recent report put out on the struggles of agriculture in Syria and the need for action to improve it. We encourage you to read the linked article and then utilize the discussion points to spark conversations around the world! If you are looking for further information the full report and a video summary can be found at the right side of the linked article.

Syrian Farmers Call to Kick-Start Agriculture Now

Discussion Points

  • Why is it so important to give attention to agriculture in Syria sooner, rather than later?
  • Under the heading "Other main findings are:" in the article there are five findings listed. Of these five which stands out to you the most and why?
  • How has agriculture been impacted in Syria and to what extent?
  • What do you believe are the first steps to improving agriculture in Syria and why?

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Kenya on the GMO Brink

GMO's have always been controversial around the globe. The controversy in Kenya is as strong as ever. The linked article below from AgWeb highlights the "Global Farmer Network" blog and features a piece by a farmer from Kenya. We encourage you to read over the linked article and utilize the discussion points below to guide conversations around the globe.

Is it Time for Kenya to Move Off the Brink and Lead with Agricultural Technology

Discussion Points

  • What is the current status of GMO's in Kenya?
  • What case does this farmer make for the need for GMO's in Kenya?
  • What was the most surprising fact or thought you took from this article? Explain.
  • Do some additional research: 
    • How are GMO's perceived around the world in different continents and countries?
    • What does science say about GMO's?

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Brazilian Meat

Even though we have returned from Brazil we will keep our focus on Brazil for this weeks post and discussion points. About a week ago the meat industry in Brazil took a hit domestically and globally. Below I have linked two articles regarding the recent issues facing the meat industry in Brazil. One includes a video and the other is strictly text. I encourage you to check out both and then utilize the discussion points provided to guide conversations around the globe. 

Discussion Points
  • What is the meat industry in Brazil facing at this time?
  • What are other countries doing in reaction to the current situation? What has been the impact on Brazilian exports?
  • What are the possible impacts that this could have on the global meat markets? Explain your reasoning.
  • If you were a high ranking official in Brazil how would you deal with the current situation to ensure as little impact to the Brazilian meat industry as possible?

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Travel Time

Today we have spent a lot of time on the road as we prepare for many hours of flights. We started out traveling from Intumbiara to Brasilia with a short pit stop in Goiania at Juarez's, to drop him off and have a coffee break. We soon were back on the road. It took between 5-6 hours to make our way to Brasilia.

Once we arrived in Brasilia we went to a mall, named Pier 21, to enjoy lunch at the food court. From there we made our way to the middle of Brasilia to get a birds eye view of the city from the TV tower. There is a market near the tower so we took this opportunity to pick up some souvenirs. After this we hit a supermarket and then planned to take a stroll along the lake and see the city, but rain changed those plans. We made our way to a mall and shared conversation while relaxing.

We have now checked into the airport and are preparing to board our flight. While at the airport we met a gentleman from Illinois who came to Brazil on a similar study abroad opportunity in 2000 and since started farming 30,000 acres in Brazil along with his operation in Illinois. Which one of these students will start farming in Brazil as part of their operation? It was truly a great time with great students!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Muito Quente

Mutio quente is a good description of today. Muito quente is Portuguese for "very hot." Today was in the mid 90's as we learned more about Brazilian agriculture. We started learning about cotton production. We were able to visit a cotton producer who works with Bayer Crop Science to produce cotton seed for future crops. He shared production practices, challenges, and some of the equipment used. Most of our group is familiar with corn and soybean production so a lot was learned.

From the farm we traveled to visit a cotton processing plant that is Japanese owned. They sell the cotton (60% exported, 40% domestic), keep seed for future crops, and then utilize the rest of the seeds for livestock feed. We were able to see the procedure of processing cotton including grading. The processing plant, also, had a large fruit and vegetable area so we were able to explore different fruits and vegetables produced in the region.

After lunch we traveled to Caramuru, a corn and soybean processing plant. We began with the corn plant where they were processing corn. A majority of the corn is processed into corn meal for cooking purposes and human consumption. The plant was "muito quente" with all the equipment running in the heat of the afternoon. Following our time in the corn processing area we made our way  to the oil extraction facility. They primarily produce soybean oil (90% of oil production), but also work with sunflower, canola, and corn oil. While there primary product is oil for cooking they use all parts of the crops in some way, shape, or form. Their packaging facility was impressive with all the robots. They are able to produce 700,000 liters of oil in one day.

Back home many of our students head to the river on a very hot day. In Brazil things are no different. One of the agribusiness that is hosting us in this area offered to meet us as the river to cool off. We enjoyed conversations while swimming and boating. Today concluded with dinner where we enjoyed great food and live Brazilian pop music. Tomorrow we make a long trek back to Brasilia before catching our flight back to the states tomorrow night.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Hitting Backroads in Brazil

We were back to exploring agriculture today in Brazil after the water park yesterday. We learned a lot about sugarcane production today. We started with a field where they had recently planted sugarcane. They plant small sections of sugarcane in the soil and plants sprout from the nodes. We covered a wide array of topics relating to sugarcane including nutrient requirements, pests, growing conditions, and more. It takes about 20 months from planting before sugarcane is ready to harvest. Sugarcane needs to be replanted every 5-8 years depending on production history and practices. The sugarcane fields we visited are harvested for ethanol production. Ethanol is used heavily to fuel vehicles in Brazil.

Next we went to an area where they were soil sampling which led to a discussion on precision agriculture practices. The farmer we were visiting with was very progressive and utilizes RTK guidance for planting and drone scouting. He is also utilizing grid soil sampling. They are currently utilizing 3 hectare (7.5 acre) grids. They hope to move to 1 hectare (2.5 acre) grids. We then traveled to a couple locations where we hoped to see harvest and planting take place, but unfortunately this was not possible due to wet condition from rain the night before.

However, the rain did not stop the farmer from sharing the process with us. He got on the phone with another farmer in the state of Minas Gerais and they were planting and harvesting today. We jumped on the road and crossed the river to the state of Minas Gerais. We had to take many backroads to reach the fields mentioned earlier and now. It was more time on the road, but well worth the time to witness planting and harvesting of sugarcane. The machines are remarkable and nothing like we are used too. We then made our way back to main roads. On the way back we came across many rough roads and had to take parts of the fields over the roads several times as the van would high center otherwise.

After lunch we returned to the state of Goias to visit a Pioneer seed corn production facility near Intumbiara. Unfortunately, our extra time in the sugarcane fields cut into our time at Pioneer. We were unable to do a plant tour, because of our arrival time. However, we had a great discussion on seed corn production in Brazil with several Pioneer employees. This specific plant works with around 45 different hybrids over 18,000 hectares (45,000 acres). We were able to compare and contrast seed production in the U.S. and Brazil. There were many similarities, but a good share of differences as well. One of the big challenges in Brazil is year round seed production with a double cropping system. Another big point of discussion was the heat units per day in Brazil. In this region they can count on 25 heat units per day and some areas of Brazil will see 30-35 heat units per day.

We ended the evening with a great dinner outside in a courtyard followed by a stop at an ice cream shop. Tomorrow we explore another farm and soybean processing plant.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A Day of Recreation in Brazil

We were a little worried when the day started out as it began with rain. We loaded up in the rain and left Goiania for Caldas Novas where there is a Hot Park Waterpark. Thankfully the rain stopped while we traveled to the Hot Park. The water is naturally heated by the earth and has many pools, slides, lazy rivers, etc. Some took advantage of the thrill rides while others took it easy. The day at the Hot Park ended with a great sand volleyball match.

When our time concluded at the Hot Park we made our way to Intumbiara and got checked into the Hotel. After getting settled in we walked to a nice pizza restaurant. Our walk took us along the river which is filled with recreational activities. We enjoyed a delicious pizza dinner and visited with two agronomists who will be with us over the next couple days. They shared pest problems and yield numbers with us. We look forward to continued conversations.

As we walked back to the hotel we stopped to watch some three on three soccer. Before you knew it the Brazilians had invited us to play. It was evident that most of us where not on their level, but it was still a lot of fun! Look forward to getting back to the fields over the next couple days.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Dairy Cattle and Monkeys

Today was another great day! We made our way to Piracanjuba Dairy about an hour from our hotel. The site that we visited was a smaller operation with about 480 total head of cattle and they were milking under 200 head twice a day. This site is utilized for training dairy farmers and workers in dairy production and practices. They covered everything from milking practices to management practices to artificial insemination. This training is open for all, but farmers who sell their milk to Piracanjuba get first priority. Piracanjuba has three large dairys across Brazil. Combined these three sites produce 1.5 million gallons of milk each day. At the farm we visited they had a variety of different breeds for training purposes, but the majority of dairy cattle are 7/8 Holstein and 1/8 Zebu.

We had several students with us that come from a dairy background. They enjoyed comparing the similarities and differences between dairy production in the USA and Brazil. They analyzed everything from nutrition to facilities.

We went for a traditional burger and fries for lunch before making our way to UFG (Universidade Federal de Goias) to tour campus. We started on the Agronomy campus with a tour of the coffee and food lab. All coffee for campus is roasted in this lab and quality tested. Next we found the monkeys! This is always a highlight for the students. We were, also, able to visit the TV station for UFG and learn about the workings of the station and programming.

We ended the evening by walking down the street from our hotel for supper and chocolate snacks. The catch was we no longer had a translator with us. We were surely a sight trying to order dinner at Giraffe's. When we made our way to the chocolate shop we were rescued by a nine year old boy who translated for us. We were very grateful! We are now enjoying an evening at the rooftop pool discussing the day and reflecting on what we have learned so far. Tomorrow we head to the hot springs and then the town of Intumbiara.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Taking to the Fields in Brazil

Today was a spectacular day of learning. We were able to get out into fields and pastures to experience Brazilian agriculture. We started the day out at Embrapa, which is a national agriculture research institution in Brazil. In the past this location has only focused on rice and edible beans, but just recently they are becoming more diversified as they are serving as a regional hub. They are incorporating a wider variety of crops and even livestock into their research. We began with a brief welcome and introduction to the facility before making our way to the labs, greenhouses, fields, and then pastures. We were able to see many crops including rice, beans, soybeans, sorghum, corn, and cotton. We had the great opportunity to learn about integrated crop-livestock systems and the Nellore cattle that they are working with. Here are some interesting facts from our Embrapa visit:
  • Environmental research is just as important as production research.
  • They have a gene bank with over 44,000 species.
  • They are the first public institution to breed transgenic beans.
  • The integrated crop-livestock system is improving soil and the environment.

We enjoyed lunch at the agriculture campus at the Universidade Federal de Goias (UFG) where we will visit tomorrow and visited with many students before traveling to PUDICA an organic farm. One of the owners of PUDICA is, also, a professor at UFG. We spent several hours exploring his farm. Many enjoyed checking out the numerous parrots as he works with a group to reincorporate parrots back to their natural habitats after injuries. We were able to see many different crops in production. One of his fields had banana's, papayas, peppers, and coffee all growing together. He did have crops we are more familiar with such as corn and soybeans, but he looks to produce specialized varieties for niche markets. They take the philosophy of health first followed by the environment, social aspects, and economics in that order.

After a long day in the sun and heat we enjoyed a steak dinner in an open air restaurant. We look forward to another great day on Tuesday.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Sunday Funday Brazilian Style

Sundays are low key in Brazil and often include spending time with others. This was the case for us this particular Sunday in Brazil. We started off by traveling to a local park that was buzzing with family and friends gathering. Some of us stopped and enjoyed some coconut water as we explored the park, before we made our way to Juarez and Jeanne's home.

We had a relaxed afternoon enjoying Brazilian cuisine and even some alligator. We were blessed to have many former students from Brazil, who studied at Hawkeye, join us along with many friends we have made through the years as part of this partnership. It was a great time as old friends reconnected and new friendships were formed. Our students enjoyed visiting with those from Brazil to learn more about their culture and agriculture practices. With the heat of the day many spent time cooling off in the pool. We are EXTREMELY THANKFUL to Juarez and Jeanne for hosting us in their home.

We had planned to attend a soccer game this afternoon, but unfortunately it happened that there was not a game as originally planned. Instead we took the opportunity to do some shopping at a local mall. It is one of the largest malls in all of Brazil. We concluded the night on the rooftop at the pool and getting to bed early to prepare for a full week of exploring Brazilian agriculture!

Exploring the Cerrado

This morning we packed up and were on the road by 7:00 as we left Brasila in route to Pirenopolis. This was the first time we were able to get out of the city and see some of the countryside. We are in the cerrado region of Brazil and we got to see a lot of the landscape. We saw a lot of pastures with cattle grazing along with some first crop soybeans, second crop corn, and the rolling countryside.

We arrived in Pirenopolis and were able to hike and explore an area with multiple waterfalls and pools that are formed from natural springs. This allowed us to cool off from the heat in the pools and enjoy some time together. We had many discussions on our hike regarding different plants we came across.

Shortly after noon we headed into the town of Pirenopolis to enjoy lunch at a typical Brazilian restaurant followed by a short stroll around town to find some ice cream for dessert. Following lunch we had more time in the vehicle as we traveled to Goiania where we will be over the next several days. Once again there was great discussion around agriculture and all we were seeing during our travels. One interesting piece of scenery we came across was the Statue of Liberty in Annapolis.

After checking in at the hotel we walked up to a "fair" near our hotel. A fair in Brazil is similar to a market where many goods are sold. We did a little shopping, mostly sampling different types of fruits and cuisine. Before returning to our hotel we stoped by a grocery store for water and other necessities.

Many former students who studied at Hawkeye from years past stoped by to say "hello" and catch up. We look forward to seeing many more former students and friends over the next week. Sunday promises to be a great day with a tour of the city, lunch at Juarez's, and a soccer game!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Learning and Feasting

Today was a day filled with great learning and feasting. We kicked off the day with a typical Brazilian breakfast that included fresh fruits, breads, meats, cheeses, and eggs. From the hotel we made our way to the Ministry of Agriculture for Brazil. Pedro Viana Borges shared an excellent presentation with us highlighting agriculture in Brazil. Here are just a few interesting facts from the presentation:

  • 8 out of 10 glasses of orange juice around the world came from Brazil.
  • Brazil exports chicken to 135 different countries around the world.
  • There are more cattle than people in Brazil.
  • Lead the world in sugar, coffee, and orange juice production. 2nd leading producer of soybeans and beef worldwide.
  • "Brazil is a major power in agriculture, but they are committed to protecting the environment."

Following our time at the Ministry we enjoyed lunch at a Churrascaria (Brazilian Steackhouse) where they bring cut after cut of meat to your table. After lunch we had a little relaxation time before making our way to CODEVASF (Sao Francisco and Parnaiba Valley Development Company). CODEVASF is a private company that is working to enrich farm families and all families lives. They provide support through documents, technical/rural extension assistance, infrastructure development, and more. Lots of time irrigation projects are part of their work. The CODEVASF team shared a wealth of knowledge with us.

Next we met up with Jose at UnB (Unversidade de Brasilia) to learn more about Brazil as a country and tour campus. UnB has an enrollment of around 35,000 students. As we concluded our time on campus we returned to the hotel before enjoying a delicious supper at Pizza a Bessa. Pizza a Bessa is a restaurant with over 40 different types of Pizza. The employees continuously are bringing different types of pizzas to your table to enjoy. We all enjoyed the open air restaurant.

There is no doubt there was an abundance of knowledge and food consumed today! We look forward to an exciting day tomorrow as we travel to Pirenopolis.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

We Have Arrived!

We arrived in Brazil and had a spectacular first day in country! Flights went well for the most part besides a little over an hour delay in Miami before we departed due to some needed maintenance on the aircraft. Sunshine and warm weather greeted us in Brasilia, unfortunately one of the students bags did not make it. We await its arrival tomorrow.

From the airport we dropped bags off at our hotel and walked to a nearby mall to grab lunch at the food court. Following lunch the students returned to the hotel for some down time while Dave and I went to the Instituto Federal Brasilia to discuss future collaboration possibilities. The Instituto Federal Brasilia is similar to a community college in the United States that serves 17,000 students. Our students took the down time to relax and swim on the rooftop.

Later in the afternoon we took the opportunity to do some sightseeing in Brasilia, the capital of Brazil. We started at the JK Memorial, which honors past president Kubitschek who founded the city of Brasilia. From there we made stops at the national cathedral, three powers square, a scenic overlook, and the presidential palace. The time together led to many conversations around the red soil and Brazilian culture.

For supper tonight we enjoyed traditional Northeast Brazilian cuisine at the Mangai Buffet before returning to the hotel. We are now reflecting on our day on the rooftop at the pool. There is no doubt this is a great group and we have an awesome week and a half together to look forward to!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Bound for Brazil!

We have just arrived at the Eastern Iowa Airport to make our way to Brazil! We have a spectacular group of nine students and two faculty who will spend a week and a half learning more about Brazilian agriculture. We encourage you to follow our daily adventures on this blog. Our next update will come Thursday evening. With an overnight flight we are set to arrive in Brasilia Thursday morning. Wheels up!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Cacao: Agroforestry versus Monoculture

A recent study conducted in Bolivia explored the production and economics of cacao. While they took yield into consideration they also looked at profitability and nutrition health of the farmers and their families. We encourage you to read the linked article and utilize the discussion points below to guide conversations in your classrooms, coffee shops, and communities around the world!

Cacao Agroforestry Systems Increase Farmers' Income

Discussion Points

  • Explain the two production practices of agroforestry and monoculture systems.
  • Briefly discuss cacao production trends over the past couple years and where it is grown around the world.
  • This study found that even though cacao yields decreased in agroforestry systems when compared to monoculture systems overall agroforestry systems achieved higher profits and better nutrition for the farmers and their families. How can this be explained?
  • This study looked at conventional versus organic cacao production as well. Discuss the findings in this area.
  • What is your major takeaway from this study and why?

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Food and Agriculture: Looking to the Future

As we all know our world population is growing and things are changing in agriculture and food production. The short video below from the FAO takes a look at trends in agriculture and food and challenges that are coming our way. I encourage you to watch the video and utilize the discussion points to start conversations with others. To catch all the trends and challenges you may want to pause the video from time to time if needed.

Discussion Points
  • Many trends were shared. Which trend did you find of the greatest importance (or most surprising) and how will it affect food and agriculture production?
  • Ten challenges were shared facing food and agriculture. Pick out one of these challenges and explain why it is important. Additionally, share how you feel this challenge can be met by farmers and consumers around the world.
  • There are many additional challenges facing food and agriculture today, beyond the ten mentioned. What is an additional challenge that comes to mind and why is it important?
Additional classroom activity: Break into groups and divide the ten challenges up amongst the groups. Have each group become experts in that area. Have them research and present their findings including: Explanation of the challenge, supporting data (how/why do we know this is important), how this challenge may look different around the world, possible solutions to the challenge, etc.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Yemen: Conflict and Agriculture

Yemen is a country that is dealing with major conflict. There are many impacts that conflict can have on countries and agriculture and food security are areas that are often vulnerable. Below is an article that discusses how conflict is affecting agriculture and food security in Yemen. We encourage you to look over the linked article and utilize the discussion points below to spark conversations around the globe.

Yemen Food Crisis Deteriorates

Discussion Points

  • What does food security and nutrition look like in Yemen currently? What has the trend over the past two years been? 
  • Explain the difference between food insecurity and malnutrition.
  • Explain the importance of agriculture to the country of Yemen.
  • What are the challenges facing agriculture in Yemen today? How do you feel these challenges could be overcome?
  • Norman Borlaug stated, "You can't build a peaceful world on empty stomachs." Explain how this statement relates to the current situation in Yemen.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Wheat Rust on the Attack

Over the past year we have seen the spread of old and new wheat rust strains around the world. The linked article below shares information on the area of impact, ramifications, and much more in regards to wheat rust. We encourage you to read the linked article and then utilize the discussion points below to spark conversation around the globe!

Spread of Damaging Wheat Rust Continues 

Discussion Points

  • Explain the recent trend of wheat rust around the globe.
    • What parts of the world/countries are being impacted?
    • Why is this so troubling?
  • Why is it so important that we have global collaboration in battling wheat rust (or any challenge facing agriculture for that matter)?
  • The article explains the direct impact that wheat rust is having in Asia, Europe, and Africa. What other impacts is or could wheat rust have on global wheat prices and production? How is or could this affect wheat prices and production in your home country?
  • Brainstorm ways to control and/or stop the damage being done by wheat rust. Reflect on the resources needed and challenges facing your thoughts and how to meet these respective needed resources and challenges.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Gene Editing and Cattle

Scientists in China have genetically edited cattle by inserting a gene that increases their resistance to bovine tuberculosis. This has been tried before, but until this time they have not seen the success with avoiding off target genetic effects. Below we have provided a link to a recent article for your review and encourage you to engage in conversation with others around the globe utilizing the discussion points.

Article: Tuberculosis-resistant cows developed for the first time using CRISPR technology 

Discussion Points

  • Why do scientists in China feel this is such a breakthrough? What are the benefits?
  • Explain the technology they utilized to accomplish this (CRISPR/Cas9). If needed do a quick internet search on the process. There are even many videos on Youtube that explain the process.
  • It was noticed that before this time when they attempted this procedure they would find off target genetic effects. Explain what this means.
  • How do you see this being perceived in your local community? State? Country? And around the world? Will different regions view this science differently?
  • Finally, you are challenged to see both sides of the argument. Some are very excited about this and others are fearful. See if you can list out the arguments from both sides and then try to research what facts there are to support each respective argument.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Information Technologies Key to Farmers

Many of us have technology at our fingertips via our mobile devices. We can check grain markets, weather, and even the score of last nights basketball game. Recently the FAO Director-General called for information technologies to be developed specifically for farmers in developing countries. We encourage you to read the linked article and use the discussion points below to guide your conversations around the globe.

More Support to Family Farmers Needed

Discussion Points
  • Why are information technologies so important to small family farmers in developing countries?
  • Why is it so important to give attention to small farmers in developing countries? 
  • What technologies are being developed that will help farmers in developing countries?
  • Look at agriculture in your community. How is information technology utilized in agriculture?
  • Imagine you work for a technology company in development. What technologies and tools would you create for farmers in developing countries and how could they use them to improve agriculture?

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Natural Disasters: Agriculture's Role

We often hear about natural disasters and their impacts on communities, but we don't always hear about the impact on agriculture from these disasters. Linked below is a video (3 mins), from the FAO, that tells the story of natural disasters impacts on agriculture and the role agriculture can play in prevention of damage during these natural disasters. We encourage you to watch the linked video and utilize the discussion points to spark conversations in your classrooms, coffee shops, and communities around the globe!

Disaster Risk Reduction in Agriculture

Discussion Points

  • What has the trend with natural disasters been? (Consider timing, severity, reasons, etc.)
  • How do natural disasters impact communities and countries? How do they impact agriculture?
  • How can agriculture help reduce the negative impacts of natural disasters?
  • Why is prevention the key?
  • What agriculture practices do you feel would help prevent/decrease damage/loss during natural disasters?

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Where in the world is the bird flu?

It wasn't too long ago that we were battling bird flu here in the United States and it was constantly in the news. Talk of bird flu has recently quieted and you might think it is no longer an issue. However, the linked article takes a look at bird flu around the world currently and it is evident it is still something to keep an eye on and protect against. Read through the linked article and utilize the discussion points below to guide you conversations around the globe.

Bird Flu Latest - H5N8 Outbreaks Around Europe and Beyond

Discussion Points

  • Where are we currently seeing bird flu outbreaks around the world?
  • What types of birds are being impacted?
  • Is there anything that surprised you or you found interesting from this article? Explain.
  • Has your home area dealt with bird flu recently or in the past? 
  • Assume the role of an agriculture/poultry expert. How would you slow/stop the spread of bird flu?

Monday, January 9, 2017

Travel = Flexability and Adaptability

Sunday marked a long day of travel back to Iowa from Haiti. We enjoyed some delicious cinnamon rolls and said our goodbyes before hitting the road for a three and a half hour drive to Port au Prince to catch our first of three flights for the day. It was an interesting day of travel as flexibility and adaptability were the themes of the day.

We had an excited passenger on our flight from Port au Prince to Miami. This lead to him receiving a personal escort off our plane when we reached Miami. Police, boarder control, and TSA were happy to come on the plane and show him to the exit when we landed. Due to this it delayed us slightly as we looked to deplane and make our way through customs. It was tight, but we made our connection to Chicago. Upon arrival in Chicago we started to make our way to our gate for the final leg of our trek home, when we received notification of our flight being delayed an hour. While this was not good news we did take the opportunity to grab food many had been craving while in Haiti.

After making our final connection to Waterloo we touched down a little after 10:30 PM. Unfortunately, three checked bags did not make the same travels we did throughout the day. Flexibility and adaptability were definitely traits we looked for on our travel day as well as the entire week. Thanks to all who ventured to Haiti, supported us, and continue to look to the future! Great things are ahead as we continue our collaboration with UCCC!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Shopping, Recreation, and a Concert in Haiti

Today marked our last full day in Haiti. We kicked off our Saturday by traveling to Pignon (about 7 miles from Caiman). This is a larger market than students have been able to visit in the past. This market was definitely an eye opening experience for many. The market is very crowded and you can purchase about anything and everything. They were selling clothing, jewelry, crops, livestock, meat, and much more. Before we left the market we stepped into a brick oven bakery to see how they make the delicious bread we enjoy. It is a very labor intensive process as they run the dough through a press (hand operated by two people) numerous times.

Following lunch we had an hour so we split into two groups and delivered rice and beans to a couple more families. After our deliveries were complete we started our hike to visit a local cave. The cave is utilized to collect guano to use as fertilizer on farmers gardens. When we arrived at the cave we started exploring. Some explored more than others. The crew that explored in depth got to work on their rock climbing skills! Upon returning to campus several took the opportunity to enjoy one final sunset in Haiti.

Following dinner tonight we were treated to a performance by the men's choir and even got the opportunity to sing one song with them. A small group of us took one final walk around campus under the newly installed lighting. It is bittersweet as we prepare to return home tomorrow. We are excited to see family and friends, but will miss the students, people, and weather in Haiti. We look forward to a full and safe day of travels ahead.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Friday Night Pizza and Pop

We started off the day by students working together to test soil samples from their gardens. We found many of the same results from past years. Soils often were low in nitrogen and potassium, adequate in phosphorus, and a pH above 7.5. Some of the students even brought soil samples from home to compare to their gardens to analyze different practices. We, also, had a discussion on practices to improve production.

After lunch we trekked out to deliver some rice and beans to families in need before we headed to a feeding center to distribute Christmas gifts. We took time to toss a frisbee, play games, and interact with the children at the feeding center. It is always amazing to see their faces light up, laughter had, and the interaction that can take place even though you cannot communicate through words due to language barriers. When we returned to campus we took a walk to find the professors dorms and deliver rice and beans to some additional families.

As we made our way back to campus we headed to the new third floor of the university to watch the sun set behind the mountains. We enjoyed Friday night pizza and pop under the famous tree out front of our dorm. We have had a relaxing evening of visiting and playing games as we prepare for our final full day in Haiti.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Agriculture, Presents, and Earthquake

Today we ventured out from campus. Following breakfast we met many of the Ag students at UCCC and made our way to the irrigation gardens. The students from UCCC  shared their successes and challenges with us for a variety of crops. This is their dry season so they are growing their second crop. The students from Haiti and the U.S. worked together to collect soil samples that we will test at the university lab Friday morning.

While we were at the irrigation gardens we took the opportunity to explore the irrigation canal and surrounding gardens. On our way back to campus we stopped by the local brick oven bakery to pick up some fresh bread to snack on. Before lunch we ventured out to the local community to deliver rice and beans to area families.

After lunch we had the opportunity to help with games and delivering Christmas presents to children at one of the feeding centers. Our crew lead some exciting games of Simon Says and Duck, Duck, Goose. Following the games we gathered the children to assist with the gift giving. We then returned to campus where we met up with a couple of the UCCC Ag students who led us on a late afternoon walk to their newly constructed broiler house for chickens. The chickens are set to come in later this year.

After supper JeanJean and Kristie's nephew came to tell us his story of the 2010 earthquake. At the time he was in medical school in Port au Prince and in a classroom when the earthquake started. The building was three levels and he was in a classroom on the middle level. The building collapsed on top of him. He was trapped beneath the concrete and rubble for approximately six hours before being dug out of the rubble. Twenty-nine of his classmates and his instructor passed away when the building collapsed. He is now a professor at UCCC and will be involved with the health clinic on campus when it opens.

We concluded a great day with some of the university students joining for another night of card games and welcoming a new team to campus from Spirit Lake, Iowa!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Lizard on the Loose

It was another great day in Haiti! The weather is beautiful and lots of awesome things are happening. Believe it or not, plans changed again today. After a delicious pancake breakfast we headed back to the cafeteria for a question and answer session with farmers at the Haitian Ag Summit. There is a lot of issues with diseases attacking a variety of crops. There was also a tense moment with concern for goats on the loose ravaging crops. Following the Q and A session we had several presentations from students on banana, cassava, and coffee. They covered everything from planting to crop protection to value added practices. Below is a group of students discussing cassava production.

We returned to the dorm for lunch when we heard screams from the girls room. There was a gecko on the loose in the girls room. Some of the girls even found the top bunks without using the ladders. The guys proceeded to try and catch the gecko. Fun fact for the day: Gecko's shed their tail as a defense mechanism and it still has nerve endings. (Wait until I can upload the video!) Our translators stepped in and caught the gecko and removed it from the girls room.

For the afternoon portion of the summit the attendees traveled to the irrigation gardens to see the students work. Due to the large number of attendees we stayed back on campus as they shuttled farmers to the garden in smaller groups to protect the gardens from damage from a large crowd. We will travel to the irrigation gardens tomorrow morning with the students to collect soil samples.

Since we stayed back we took the opportunity to work on our logistics lesson. We assisted Kristie by putting together Christmas gifts for children in the area that have been sent down. When we had the presents put together we took a short walk and purchased two bags of rice and one bag of beans. We then packaged the rice and beans in smaller portions that we will be able to deliver to area families later in the week.

We had several dinner guests tonight! Agriculture students that are supported by individuals and organizations from around the Cedar Valley joined us. After dinner we played games and taught the Haitian students how to play the card game Spoons.

We are now sitting outside reviewing notes from the Haitian Ag Summit. As we reflect on the summit it has been truly inspiring. Farmer after farmer thanked UCCC, the students, and the Global Agriculture Learning Center at Hawkeye Community College for the work that is being done. JeanJean shared that he has received multiple calls today from summit participants that were amazed by all that is being done and look forward to continued partnership to improve agriculture in the area!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

"I have a spider in my bag! Want to see?"

It was a fantastic first full day in Haiti! This morning we found out that the Haitian Ag Summit was set to start today and finish tomorrow, January 4th. We changed our plans on the fly and it was a very successful day.

We started off by helping organize name tags and registration for he farmers in attendance at the summit. It was a full room with over 200 in attendance. The students from UCCC shared their test trials and results utilizing compost tea that we have assisted with over the past year. The results they have found have been spectacular with great yield increases. We look forward to digging into the data deeper with the students over the next couple days. After lunch we had an open forum session where farmers shared challenges facing them for us to work with in the future.

Following the summit we enjoyed a tour of campus and the story behind the development of UCI. The progress that is being made is remarkable. As we were heading back to our dorm we were met by a participant from the summit who said, "I have a spider in my bag! Would you like to see?" as he proceeded to pull a bucket of tarantulas out. We were all intrigued, but a little cautious.

We ended the day with a visit from Nelson, who is a former witch doctor who has converted to Christianity. We had a great discussion on the effects of voodoo to the society and agriculture in Haiti. We look forward to tomorrow and the second day of the Haitian Ag Summit. It will be the field day of the summit as we head to the gardens.